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Tanzania’s tight elections

Tanzania is set to witness the tightest elections since the advent of multiparty democracy in July 1992. The 25 October elections will pit mainly the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi against the Coalition of Wananchi Constitution (Ukawa) which bring together the Party for Democracy and Progress (Chadema), the Civic United Front (CUF), NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy (NLD).

A draft constitution which was written by the constitutional review commission chaired by former Prime Minister Joseph Warioba was rejected by the ruling CCM party and there was subsequently postponement of the referendum last April. The opposition, which includes CUF, the dominant political force in Zanzibar, then created Ukawa. The draft constitution provided for autonomous governments of mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar under the authority of a federal government. The postponement of the referendum is likely to influence the 25 October elections especially in Zanzibar where CUF hopes to take over from the CCM. The duel between CCM and CUF in Zanzibar comes also with an increased risk of violence. Pundits agree on the fact that this year’s elections will be a two-horse race between Ukawa and CCM. Ukawa’s presidential candidate and former Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who crossed to the opposition in July this year, will face CCM’s Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli. For the first time, there is a possibility of the opposition taking over power in Tanzania thanks to an infusion of fresh blood and more financial muscles brought in by defecting CCM politicians.

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Sixty-one year old Lowassa was dropped from the shortlist of CCM presidential nominees, triggering discontent among some party quarters. Three out of 32 members of the party’s Central Committee objected to that action arguing that that the party constitution “dictates that the most popular candidate should be picked as presidential nominee”. Lowassa said the nomination process was flawed and some senior party officials had sidelined him to “vent their fury against him”. He also said the Central Committee not the Ethics Committee had the mandate to axe him.

taz 4Lowassa was forced to resign in 2008 from the post of prime minister after being accused of involvement in improper awarding in 2006 of a contract to a US-based electricity company, Richmond Development. Donors subsequently suspended contributions to the country’s budget support. He crossed over to the opposition and was followed by two government ministers and a former and longest serving prime minister, Frederick Sumaye. In what was seen as an anti-corruption campaign, President Kikwete had a month earlier sacked the governor of the Central Bank over the disappearance of funds from the bank. Commenting on the surprising victory of Magufuli in the CCM presidential nomination process against walthy Lowassa, a Tanzanian commented on internet that “money can’t buy Tanzania’s presidency”.

Who is Magufuli

A doctor in chemistry and a former mathematics and chemistry teacher, 56-year old Magufuli has been a Member of Parliament for the last two decades. He has held several ministerial positions including that of works, fisheries and land. He defeated two female candidates who had been retained from the initial 38 prospective candidates. Those who know him say he is a simple, unassuming non-corrupt politician who shocked members as well as non-members of the CCM when he won the nomination. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and current Foreign Minister Bernard Membe were front runners at the beginning of the nomination process.

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The nomination of Magufuli as CCM presidential candidate was largely welcomed. Most analysts say he is the man to tackle the ever increasing corruption in the country. “Dr Magufuli has the best record in terms of hard work and he is not tainted by any corruption scandals”, a University of Dar es Salaam Political Science lecturer, Dr Benson Bana, said. Dr Bana added that Magufuli’s performance level in all the dockets he had led was high and as a non-sense man, he was tough with underperforming officials. Analysts alsos say that Magufuli can seal the cracks in his party which came about during the nomination process and that the opposition will have a hard time matching Magufuli’s record.
The media quoted Open University of Tanzania Political Science lecturer Emmanuel Mallya saying that the Opposition will face a titanic battle on October 25 as he is “the most accepted candidate and this should be a challenge to the Opposition to field a good candidate as well.’’  Local surveys have shown that corruption ranks high among the concerns of the Tanzanians. The graft allegations levelled against Lowassa could become a liability as he squares it out with Magufuli. The later is seen as clean and intolerant towards corruption while his competitor, Lowassa, is viewed as having ill-gotten wealth. Ironically, Lowassa’s new party, Chadema, criticised him over corruption when he was prime minister.

Challenges to the ruling party

However, Magufuli’s untainted record does not scare the opposition which believes it has the best chances ever to unseat CCM. It says the corruption cases were as a result of collective government decisions which should be blamed on lowassa alone The opposition coalition is expected to give a stiff challenge to CCM. “We are entering this race to win and we aren’t feeling intimidated whatsoever by CCM’s presidential candidate because he cannot be different from others who have continually failed this country for more than 50 years,’’ NCCR-Mageuzi secretary general, Mosena Nyambabe, was quoted by the media saying.

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Some analysts say the undemocratic way that characterised the CCM nomination process will usher in more competition in this year’s general elections. Besides bringing to the opposition side some of his supporters from CCM, Lowassa is expected to bring the financial muscles that the opposition has lacked in the past.
In Tanzania, a CCM nomination as presidential candidate is an almost sure ticket to the presidency. The party has won all the presidential elections since 1977, when it was created. It is likely to be the case this time around albeit with improved results for the opposition.
However, if he wins and become Tanzania’s fifth president, Magufuli will face some challenges. He will have to bring together the camps of his party which were at loggerhead during the nomination process. The next president of Tanzania will also have to organize a referendum on a new constitution.

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The winner of the 25 October elections will be expected to fight the cancer of corruption. Many analysts believe that Magufuli is the right man to do that job in comparison to candidates like Edward Lowassa who was forced to step aside over graft allegations. The next president will also face the challenge of reducing poverty in a country which has recorded economic growth over the years but has failed to spread that wealth to the poor. The country’s poor also hope to benefit from proceeds from the newly discovered offshore gas which brings in some six billion dollars yearly.

Charles Bigirimana

 

 

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